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Thoughts Whilst Reading Nicholas Nickleby (Chapters I – XII)

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Not so strangely enough, Nicholas Nickleby is taking a while to get through. At 831 pages (yes, I counted them, it created a mini feeling of despair) sans illustrations, and without tiny text and scant margins, I envisage my slow reader self will take at least until mid December to finish it. I’m making efforts to read shorter books alongside to up my year count and so that this blog doesn’t lack reviews.

Whilst reading I thought back to the time Iris and I read Wuthering Heights together and the subsequent post it spawned; I thought I might revisit the idea this time. Here are my thoughts having finished chapter 12 of Dickens’ tome, about a quarter of the way in.

I’ve been surprised Nicholas has been so open so early on to Miss Squeers and Miss Price in regards to his hatred of Dotherby’s. I suppose it strikes me as not thought out – assuming he stays a while, or at least assuming he’s currently thinking of staying a while, it seems a silly thing to do. I’ve marvelled at his submission but then if he left straight away there wouldn’t be much of a story, at least not much of a Victorian sort of story. I hope he gets the place closed down even if I know it may be wishful modern thinking.

I’m half in a mind to wonder if he’s going to end up marrying Miss Price who, for all she must know about the cruelty, strikes me as not too different to him. Still, I know Dickens has a tendency to overdevelop characters that won’t be around for long. I did like the scenes in which Miss Squeers went to town on the idea and plan of Nicholas liking her.

Despite having experienced Dickens’ wordiness, it’s surprising me. I suppose the superfluous content was more acceptable back then and that perhaps it’s in part our shorter attention spans that have made us find it an issue. This said, I think he needed to edit his work, word count be damned.

Granted, this works best if you know the context, but I’m including it because I like Dickens’ clever humour here:

“What is the reason that men fall in love with me, whether I like it or not, and desert their chosen intendeds for my sake?”
“Because they can’t help it, miss,” replied the girl; “the reason’s plain.” (If Miss Squeers were the reason, it was very plain.)

I’ll end this post by saying that I’ve read a further two chapters now and know therefore that what I’ve said above is somewhat irrelevant, but it’s a record of thoughts nonetheless. That Dickens is a rather sneaky fellow…

Have you read Nicholas Nickleby/do you plan to?



November 17, 2014, 4:32 pm

It’s a long while since I read this – and with time and distance I find one Dickens can merge into another – but I think it suffered from being originally serialised. The plot meanders, as if Dickens didn’t have a writing plan but ad-libbed from week to week, and characters leave the story, but then make a dramatic,unjustified return – as if the readers had demanded more about them. Not really that different to a loved, or love-to-hate, character returning to a TV soap these days, I suppose.


December 8, 2014, 4:21 pm

Maryom: I’ll having to keep that in mind, the merging, I’m already wondering if David Copperfield will be too like Nicholas Nickleby to keep them apart. You’re right, it does read as a serial in that meandering way, sudden changes and plots disappearing after a while’s been spent on them. That’s true, it would suit a soap opera very well!



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